Magellanic Tapaculo Scytalopus magellanicus Scientific name definitions

Vicente Pantoja and César Muñoz
Version: 2.0 — Published January 13, 2023


Systematics History

Motacilla magellanica Gmelin, 1789, Systema Naturae 13(1):979. Type locality given as Tierra del Fuego. Gmelin's (19) description is based on Latham's (20) "Magellanic Warbler."

Historically, Scytalopus magellanicus included many additional taxa that have since been recognized as separate species, including the closely related Dusky Tapaculo (Scytalopus fuscus) in Chile, as well as Pale-bellied Tapaculo (Scytalopus griseicollis), Neblina Tapaculo (Scytalopus altirostris), Ancash Tapaculo (Scytalopus affinis), Vilcabamba Tapaculo (Scytalopus urubambae), Zimmer's Tapaculo (Scytalopus zimmeri), and Puna Tapaculo (Scytalopus simonsi), among others. The taxon fuscicauda, which is currently considered a subspecies of Merida Tapaculo (Scytalopus meridanus), has also sometimes been placed with Scytalopus magellanicus (15, 21, 22, 23). Many of the splits from a broader Scytalopus magellanicus have been based on vocal differences and genetic differences (e.g., 23). Scytalopus magellanicus is currently described to occur from Atacama to Tierra del Fuego with no recognized subspecies, but it is possible that further studies split the populations in the Andes of north-central Chile and recognized additional subspecies or species (8).

Landbeck described the whitish-crowned individuals as another species (Pteroptochos albifrons), but it was later discovered this was merely individual variation (3).

Based on a study published in 2013, Magellanic Tapaculo populations in Cabo de Hornos could represent a new taxon, and the authors suggested it may represent either a new allopatric species or a subspecies. However, more studies are required to confirm this, as this conclusion was based only on color differences in the juvenile plumage (24).

Geographic Variation

Some males that live in forested habitats in the southern part of its distribution can have a white crown or feathers in the forehead, unlike those that inhabit the high Andes. Some authors have suggested that populations with white-crowned individuals represent a separate subspecies (see Systematics History), but more research is required (3, 25, 9). Specimens from the southern extent of the distribution appear to be slightly larger than the those from the south-central portion of its distribution (Malleco to Llanquihue) (2).


Currently recognized as monotypic (26). The populations in central high Andes from Chile and Argentina have been described as a possible different subspecies than the populations in southern lowland forests, but more studies are required to confirm this (8, 9, 27). In addition, birds from Cabo de Hornos may represent a distinct taxon, but additional research is also needed to clarify the status of this population (7).

Related Species

Magellanic Tapaculo appears to be sister species with Dusky Tapaculo (Scytalopus fuscus). Together, these two species are part of the Southern Andes clade of Scytalopus tapaculos that includes eight other species distributed from southern Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Within this group, Magellanic Tapaculo and Dusky Tapaculo are sister to the rest of the clade (28).

This clade is part of the Scytalopus genus, which contains at least 49 species, and is distributed from Costa Rica to Tierra del Fuego; the genus includes the endangered Brasilia Tapaculo (Scytalopus novacapitalis), Boa Nova Tapaculo (Scytalopus gonzagai), Paramillo Tapaculo (Scytalopus canus), Magdalena Tapaculo (Scytalopus rodriguezi), and Ecuadorian Tapaculo (Scytalopus robbinsi). While it is an extremely diverse genus, much of this diversity has only recently come to light through research on genetic diversity, phylogeography, and vocalizations, because most members of the genus all are extremely similar in terms of plumage and morphology (22, 28, 29, 30). Cryptic diversity is still being recognized in this group, so it is possible that there are more species than the ones described at the time of this writing.


Not reported (31).


Local names include “churrín del sur” (Chile), “Churrín común” (Argentina), "Churrín andino" (Argentina), "Para atrás," "Pa'trás-pa'trás," "Choco" (Chiloé), "Cholchif" (Araucan), “Tiftifken” (Mapuche), "Triftrifken" (Mapuche), "Trureu" (Mapuche), “Tutu” (Yagan), "San José" (Ñuble), and "chercán negro" (32, 33, 7, 34).

Scytalopus comes from Greek "skutale" or "skutalon," which means stick or branch, and "pous," which means foot. The species name magellanicus is derived from where it was described, Tierra del Fuego.

Fossil History

None reported.

Recommended Citation

Pantoja, V. and C. Muñoz (2023). Magellanic Tapaculo (Scytalopus magellanicus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.magtap1.02